Wednesday, 30 May 2012

The Chalkland Way - 28th May 2012

“40 odd miles of Yorkshire Wolds in around 8 hours, and, in this weather? You’re `avin a laff”

And so it would prove, in many ways …

Devised in 1994 by Ray Wallis, and funded by the East Yorkshire and Derwent Area of the Ramblers` Association, the Route is a grand circular of Britains` most northerly chalk outcrop: Noted for their green, dry valleys, this route around the Wolds is no stroll through the park – as Ray acknowledged in his excellent leaflet of the round “ The next time someone expresses the view that East Yorkshire is flat, let them walk up some of the valley-sides on this walk – they may then revise their opinion. They won`t argue, they’ll be out of breath”. Firstly, I must offer my huge thanks to Ray for providing me with all the information required for this attempt – my only criticism was that he didn’t re-inforce to me how hard a challenge this would actually prove to be.

“If you carry on at that steady pace you’ll soon be in Fangfoss” smiled the dogwalker, looking me up and down.
Fangfoss! I didn’t even have that on my map, what the bloody `ell am I doing on the Fangfoss road, I’m trying to get to Bugthorpe…. Was my immediate reaction, It actually came out like …
“Really, and so this isn’t the Youlthorpe Lane then?”. I must retrace back to Bishop Wilton which I left 15 minutes, and just over a mile ago, and so muttering expletives, that got louder as I put further distance between us, I left the walkers to continue their stroll down a quiet sunlit lane … obviously on their way to Fangfoss.

What a faux pas! and I’d been doing quite well to this point – navigating smartly around this cracking circular in clear blue skies and all in reasonable time. Lesson to self: When cutting maps up, don’t even think of missing a section out, no matter how small, there are consequences. Small diversions appear as if by magic and afore you know it you’ve added miles onto an already long drawn out run.

A few hours earlier, and with the threat of another boiling hot day to come, I’d decided to kick off at Wetwang as early as possible and so managed a 6.00am dash out of the village straight onto a clean track through young corn before the labyrinth took me through rape and further corn fields, back lanes and tracks heading south west towards Huggate and onto Pocklington.

Apart from a couple of dips at the Osmotherley Phoenix and The Lyke Wake Race, much further north, I’d never run any Yorkshire Wolds trails before and was genuinely surprised how stunning the scenery appeared. Lot’s and lots of Dales – around the whole route, 13 in all and a few more to look across at! And the striking difference from the other Yorkshire Dales was that none of them have a river at the bottom! Very strange, but very different, and perfectly pleasant to run along perfectly green tracks with flower covered steep sides and the odd tree to cast a little dapple.

With a bright and early start, the fields were resplendent with rabbits and hares, even Deer watched me lope along the paths, but this brightness soon turned to warmth which quickly increased to heat and with clouds as rare as hens’ teeth, it was going to be steaming later.

And, there were spectacular dips and climbs, none more so than crossing Sylvan Dale!. Firstly down some chalk stairs...

Then, once down the cliff then back up t`other side.

Completing unsupported rounds of 40 ish miles and more of country trails means carrying a decent amount of provisions around in the pack and I kicked off with 4 bottles of water and 1 of electrolyte mix along with all manner of gels / bars &c … not one bottle too light as it proved as I had two refills of two before the day was out.

Leaving Pocklington, heading North West, the trails started to become overgrown and a new obstacle presented itself – head high nettles and overgrown thistles proved interesting especially with shorts and ankle length thorlos! … Can still feel the nettle stings today! And guys, it does focus the mind when you’re stung there! Yes there, right there, yup, on the end …
Regaining height, heading back north was hot work but the shade around Great Givendale was very welcome...

as was the site of a beautiful little church...

Then left and outwards and onwards to where two maps were supposed to join seemlessly.

And, once the nonsense of Bishop Wilton and poor mapping was behind me, the steady climb back up the chalky hills recommenced with a vengence. Having been nettled to death and having my own personal swarm of midges to pace me, the interminable heat and field after field of baked rubble reduced me to a hobble … 5.30 for 26 ½ miles...

... and the steepest climb of the round ahead; so, so steep up Deepdale that the turf was slipping off the incline!

The sun poured its` heat down onto the chalk and reflected blindingly, the long searched for welcome cooling breeze never arrived and, although visibly stunning, the high temperatures were truly tiring – this is what it’s all about: The mind-games, the interminable trails, the will to complete at any cost? .. What cost?

A flat farm track for once and tarmac!, and an opportunity to break into a trot, crossing the Fridaythorpe road and then thankfully, a very welcome downhill, albeit again without a breath of air through Mill Dale into Thixendale... 

... and more dry valleys. This time I was severely spent and hobbling into Thixendale village and I had to consider my options.

Water from the bottles had tasted of warm plastic for the best part of the last two hours … and they were now empty. Sitting on upturned beer barrels in the shade behind the (closed) Cross Keys at Thixendale, I watched forlornly as the delivery man appeared.
“Do you have an outside tap I could use please?” I begged of the Landlord
“Sure, there it is” and they both watched, amused, as I emptied two fresh bottles over my head, drank one more and then refilled three for the rest of the trip.
Whether it was the cold water, the opportunity for the first sit down for over 30 miles, or the little shade afforded by the buildings then it worked and I banished the thoughts – which had become very real – of taking a shortcut back to the car! No, I’d started this so I’ll finish this; I didn’t want a DNF even though it was a solo attempt – and no-one would ever know.

“That water went down well!” remarked the Landlord. I thanked him whilst thinking “If you’d let me into that Bar, I’ll demostrate exhibition standard drinking from any pump you’d care to point to!” perhaps it was for the better that he remains closed during Monday lunchtimes.

Refreshed, revitalised, refocussed and relieved to have found the final drive to continue, I started the last loop up around Raishthorpe Wold via the Centenary Way Track up and away up through Court Dale and further great views across Honey Dale...

before bumping into another obstacle! Ewes and Lambs generally run away from haggard looking runners but these four Tupps weren’t moving from their shady spot by the styal so I had to climb the fence, getting nettled yet again in the process.

After the sweeping views north over Wharram Percy Wold it was finally southwards down a flat smooth road to Fimber, passing yet more Dales: Fairy Dale …

And the unbelievably vibrant green Whay Dale complete with a nut brown herd of cows.

Through Fimber, now briskly, and I spotted the penultimate climb across the road complete with car mounted bird scarer and then cresting the summit and down with a glimpse of Wetwang on the Horizon. How kind to finally find a great wide swathe cut through the path to complete my journey – two fields to go and I’m back at Wetwang.

Pottering in, 9 and ½ hours - and 42 miles - after starting this morning offered simple no frills relief of a round completed in what had been a very hot, cloudless and windless day.

Give this a go if you fancy stunning scenery, twists and turns and a great outing on trails. Don’t take it too lightly though! You need all your wits about you. And, in weather like that don’t dare forget to cover yourself in P20 otherwise you’re toast.

Thanks Ray, I had another blast


  1. Sounds like a great run - and well done for doing it on your own! The photos look great.

    1. Thanks Sara, it took a bit of conviction to keep going in the heat - especially getting lost half way round and then having to deal with nettles on the overgrown bits!. Perhaps I ought to carry a lighter camera in future :-)

  2. Beautiful photos! Those stairs are frightening. Yipes!!

    1. Thanks Stacey. Yes, it came as a bit of a surprise when I thought I'd have a steady journey through fields and lanes - didn't expect that at all!!